Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My Mom Reviews Records - vol. 1

Have you noticed that the majority of people reviewing music these days are in their 20's or 30's, and are way too aware of what's "hip" - what we're "supposed" to enjoy? Is it possible that some records don't break through to the mainstream because most people wouldn't actually like them, if they heard them?
It seems like any goofball can start a blog and declare their opinion to be credible, but I thought it would be nice to get a fresh perspective. Forget the critics - I wondered how a person who doesn't care what Pitchfork thinks (and doesn't know what music geeks mean when they say "Pitchfork") would actually respond to a much discussed, hot new band that they've never heard of before?

Dorothy, Maggie, and Me
by Gloria Berkowitz
special guest columnist

This is my shot at my remaining seven and a half minutes of fame for this year (I used up the rest of the time as a blogger at the Democratic convention for our local Tampa newspaper). I am joining the ranks of Dorothy Letterman and Maggie Griffin; I am writing this review of Fleet Foxes based on my credentials as Peter's mom.
Readers deserve to know something of a reviewer's background and mine is fairly typical of one who grew up with the music of the late (very late) 1950's and 1960's. I was a young teenager when popular music moved from Frankie Avalon and Dion to the Beatles, and I moved with it. I spent summers at camp where someone always had a guitar and was always playing "The House of the Rising Sun" or "Kumbaya". I bought 45's and albums (many of which now belong to Peter) and my taste in music was formed from those sources.
My husband and I are often late adopters of the newest technology, but XM Radio did enter our lives when Herb bought a new car. After using it for a few months, he asked if I wanted to add it to my car, but, having used his car several times, I said no. When I had access to the zillions of stations on XM, all I ever listened to were the 60's stations, cool jazz, and the folk stations. An extra monthly charge for five or six extra stations didn't seem necessary. Besides, I'm usually glued to NPR.
Back to Fleet Foxes. I must admit, to my great guilt and shame, that I should love this CD. The music seems fused from all the musical elements I love: I heard old time country and gospel in it (I adore O Brother, Where Art Thou), shades of California pop, and folk, yet none of it grabbed me. If I were reviewing a wine, rather than music, I would say things like "melodic, yet bland" or "soothing, yet boring". To my great shame, each time I listened to the CD, I would be into song three for the second time before I realized I'd heard songs one and two before. The word that kept coming to me was vanilla.
Time to wrap this up. I'm off to Borders (Tampa lacks independent record stores like ear X-tacy) before it closes. James Taylor and Joan Baez have new CDs out and they seem to be calling me.

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